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Remembering old friends on D-Day, Normandy

Up on the hill above Arromanches-les-Bains we looked down on the bay that became known as Gold Beach on 6 June 1944.

Gold Beach from the hillWe were matching a postcard of four survivors, soldiers who had arrived on D-Day.  We know the photo was taken shorty after D-Day as the Mulberry Harbours, essential for landing provisions, are not yet in position.

Our soldiers are mostly smiling with the brave good humour of the British Tommy.

The man on the right looks a lot like my Grandpa Bert.  I know it isn’t him of course, he was in other battles.  Battles he would never speak of.  Battles he fought for us.

So much has been written and recorded about that day; details of manoeuvres, personal stories, accounts of bravery and endurance, this is not the place to write it’s history, but here are just a few words from someone who was there.

Private Frank Rosier, 2nd Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment

When your best friend gets killed it is surprising how hard you can become on a battlefield, I think you switch your mind off. My best friend, we called him Smokey Joe, Battersea boy, London boy, he was 18 years when he died.

“At the time I just said ‘oh Reggie is gone,’ but … I will be going back to Normandy and I will see his grave and cry. I have never figured out why I a mourn him now and not at the time. To lose a brother is a terrible thing and he was a brother. I lost two actual brothers in the war, but I miss Reg a lot.”

When asked if all the terrible losses were worth it Frank replied;

Yes, every minute of it. We go back to Normandy quite frequently and people say to us ‘….thank you for our freedom’. It is only in recent years that I have realized how important freedom really is, you can’t taste it, you can’t feel or hear it. But it is so important to be free.”  

Frank landed on Gold Beach.

The carnage on the beach brought me to a complete standstill” he remembers “it was so horrific it has stuck with me to this day.”

Three months later, in intensive fighting in Normandy, he was wounded by a mortar, losing his eye.

d-day-veterans-then-now
Frank Rosier in 1944 and 2014 – source: d.ibtimes.co.uk

 Never forget

Frank was recently asked to support a project collecting oral histories of D-Day, he said:

“In a few years there won’t be many of us left, so it’s important that we record those memories and the experiences we went through… I think the children of today, there is such a great gap between that time and now so I think it’s important to know what it was all about.”

We are delighted to hear Frank will be back in Normandy for the 2015 anniversary.  Read more from Frank here in a recent interview.

The sun sets on the Mulberry harbours
The sun sets on the Mulberry harbours

Learn more

There are many excellent D-Day museums along the coast, all with English translations and information.  At Arromanches:

  • Visit Le Musée du débarquement next to Gold Beach
  • See our view and learn more at Arromanches 360, up on the hill
  • Walk along Pl. du 6 Juin 1944  and turn into Boulevard Gilbert Longuet to visit Arromanches Militaria; part shop, part museum with some fascinating memorabilia.  Run by a friendly English speaking  team (occasionally accompanied by a rather cute Dachshund)

A brief introduction to June 6 1944

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